All things by immortal power,
Near or far,
To each other linked are,
That thou canst not stir a flower,
Without troubling of a star,
. — Francis Thompson
Hi blog viewers, since long time…….hope all are doing good.
Karanth was a citizen of Shankargarh, a small seaside village on the east coast of India. He was a sad man. After the death of his wife, all his sons and daughters forsook him because of his miserly habits . Morose with the happenings around him, he grew sadder day by day, till he fell seriously ill and then passed away. Stories such as this have been told and retold through the centuries ( no doubt in more entertaining terms) by village story tellers in India. This tale of Karanth’s sad memtal state, which caused his fatal illness, is representative of India’s time honoured wisdom and practical knowledge about the power of the mind on illness and disease and healing.
Despite over fifty years of revolutionary research in medicine and molecular biology by Western– based Science, our knowledge about the human brain and its functioning has remained elemental. Little or nothing of what we traditionally call “Mind” has been thoroughly understood. In particular, the idea that the mind and the body have a medically significant relationship where the state of the mind controls the well- being of the body is relatively new to Western medicine. However, this concept has been an integral part of Ayurveda, traditional medical science, for ages.
Ancient texts, including the Vedas, Upanishads, and other scriptures considered to be the fountainhead of Indian philosophy, propounded this principle. Practising physicians and surgeons of ancient India, like Charaka and Sushruta, emphasized the importance of the right mental state for healing, holding that the state of one’s mind governs the entire existence of the human being, certainly including one’s physical health. Modern medicine traces the origin of certain diseases called psychosomatic illnesses to mental states like fear, anger, and anxiety. But deeper mind body links, where variance of mental states directly affects body functioning on a day- to- day basis, There have been a number of scientific explorations that support the contention that mental states like happiness and sadness have a direct consequence on the body’s ability to fight diseases. The actual physical and biochemical changes occurring in the brain and the body— the elusive hidden links that intricately connect the mind and the body– have been deciphered to a certain extent. This has led to a new paradigm of thinking.
The Role of states of Mind in immunity: The human body is exposed daily to a wide variety of harmful bacteria and viruses. To fight this ever present menace, as well as non-infective diseases such as cancer, our bodies have a highly specialized immune system. It consists of an army of of blood cells that have varying capacities for neutralizing invading micro organisms— either by devouring them or by releasing chemicals that deactivate them. Some are highly specialized cells such as T (Thymus derived) cells and NK (natural killer) cells that directly kill both cancer- and virus- infected cells in the body.Anything that depresses the function of these blood cells can make one vulnerable to infections— like common cold or other viral infections of the respiratory tract.
Losing a loved one is among the most intense of emotional losses anyone can face. In a landmark study conducted in 1975, R.W.Bartrop, M.D; and his colleagues at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, studieed the effects of bereavement by following the lives of surviving spouses and charting changes in immune function during mourning. Batteries of immune and hormonal measures were taken. The conclusion: At eight weeks, T- cells functions were significantly lower in the bereaved spouses than in the age and sex- matched controls.
While a depressed mind decreases immunity, a happy mood has now been proved to enhance the body’s capacity toward off disease. Sandra Levy, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cancer institute, monitored thirty- six women affected with highly advanced breast cancer. Her study of those that survived the longest showed that one of two most influential factors was a high level of happiness and joy ( measured by scores on a standard questionnaire).
The study also showed that the prognosis in breast cancer patients depends on the activitty of the NK cells (which directly devour cancer cells), and also that stress causes release of certain chemicals in the body that decrease the activity of the NK cells— thus augmenting the cancer . It is therefore not surprising that research on various relaxation techniques that promote inner peace, including meditation, suggest that they can measurably assist the mind in enhancing immunity against cancer.
The new science called psychoneuroimmunology that endeavours to study the interactions of mind, brain, and body is still in a formative stage. However given the fast pace of research, the day is not far off when healing by mental power will be accepted as a scientific proposition and not a metaphysical experiment as it is now. Research proceeds apace in many biological labs around the world to further delineate the interactions and harness the power of the human mind– the most mysterious object in the universe.
—By Indranill Basu Ray, M.D.